Infection with the hepatitis C virus (HCV) remains a leading cause of liver cancer in the United States. Treatments now available for HCV can cure upwards of 90% of patients; however, the high price tag of these HCV treatments can serve as an obstacle to these medications reaching all infected people.
Yet, there is a hidden cost to not treating patients: that of needing to treat more serious health problems down the road. Untreated HCV patients who develop liver cancer due to the virus incur very high health care costs, point out researchers in a new article in the journal Cancer. These researchers closely tracked the health care expenditures of a randomly selected sample of HCV patients who also had liver cancer. Health care costs were followed for a ten-year period and included any procedures, imaging, hospitalizations, medications, and associated care.
Over the follow-up period (or until the patient died), the average cost per patient was $176,456. Patients with more severe conditions who eventually required a liver transplant incurred costs of nearly twice that of non-transplant patients.
Ongoing research such as this gives credence to the use of HCV treatments for patients in the early stages of the disease, before difficult-to-treat and costly complications develop. By looking at the true costs of this disease, it becomes clear that HCV treatment makes sense.
Stephen C. Vogt, Pharm.D.
President and CEO
BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy
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Tapper EB, Catana AM, Sethi N, et al. Direct costs of care for hepatocellular carcinoma in patients with hepatitis C cirrhosis. Cancer 2015 Dec 30. doi: 10.1002/cncr.29855. [Epub ahead of print]